Tony hated how long Steve’s eyelashes were. He hated how Steve could look absolutely cherubic even when lying to Tony’s face. He hated how Steve styled his hair since getting it cut like a proper twenty-first century man should, hated how it was always looked like he’d casually styled it even after wearing a helmet (like a bike helmet, Tony’s forebrain supplied, while his hindbrain recalled only the helmet he’d emulated with aluminum foil as a child). He hated how pink Steve’s lips were, and truly, he hated how weirdly perfect Steve’s teeth were without dental intervention. He hated how Steve genuinely looked like he’d never been punched in the mouth, how he could show up in jeans and a t-shirt with that fucking half-smile and no bags under his eyes and –
The elevator doors opened, and Tony barely stopped himself hissing through his teeth. He forced himself to look at Steve – the real Steve, the one standing in front of him with his hand propped against the elevator doorway to keep it open, not the one he’d been mulling over in his mind’s eye for over half a year – but didn’t say anything as he forced a clearly artificial smile and waved Steve inside. Tony had almost perfectly predicted how Steve would look – casual clothes, gently mussed hair, those goddamn fucking eyelashes – but he hadn’t anticipated how much deeper the lines around Steve’s mouth would be, as though he hadn’t stopped frowning since they’d parted ways in Siberia.
(Parted ways. Steve had left him.)
He hadn’t called Steve. He’d thought about it, even gotten as far unlocking the drawer where he’d stashed the burner, but he hadn’t touched the phone, and he’d be damned if he broke his streak now.
(In fact, it had taken him a week to check the drawer after he’d thought he’d heard the phone vibrating in there, and he hadn’t deigned to return Steve’s call the old-fashioned way when he’d finally checked it. It had been short work to reroute any further calls to the burner to JARVIS, whom was to answer said calls with directions to call Tony at his business number. Two days later, Steve had called again. Tony had answered via JARVIS, who had relayed Tony’s “consultation hours” to Steve and then arranged an “appointment” for Steve to arrive in another few days. If Steve wanted to talk, then fine, he could talk – he could get on his knees and fucking beg to lick Tony’s shoes for all Tony cared – and Tony would stay just out of reach and watch, as cold and clinical and calculating as Steve had apparently always thought he was.)
Now, in front of Tony, solid and real and definitely not a daydream, Steve offered Tony a small, sad smile. Tony folded his arms, and Steve dropped his chin in what Tony dared to believe was acceptance.
“Hey,” Steve said, too quietly to sound anything like Captain America. He looked up, looked Tony dead in the eye. “You look good.”
Tony’s fingers danced against his bicep.
“Can we…” Steve propped his hands low on his hips, pulled his elbows back. Maybe opening his chest was supposed to look vulnerable or trusting, but the gesture reminded Tony of an argument over a log pile. That one hadn’t come to blows; the hitting had come later, when Tony had once again been trying to redeem himself.
He and Steve had never spoken about that, either.
And now, Steve appeared to be waiting for Tony to finish his thought for him. Instead, Tony raised his eyebrows and shrugged in a sardonic display of feigned ignorance. He was pleased when Steve sighed.
“Can we talk?”
Tony shook his head, and Steve, to his credit, dropped his jaw a little in surprise.
“Then why am I here?”
Tony closed the distance between them, unwound his arms to grab hold of the front of Steve’s shirt. Steve hissed in surprise, wrapped his hands around Tony’s wrists, but when Tony put the full force of his body into pulling Steve forward, Steve willingly dropped to his knees. Tony released Steve’s shirt, moved one hand to Steve’s shoulder and grasped Steve’s hair with the other, pulled Steve’s head back and forced him to look up at Tony.
“You’re going to beg,” Tony growled.
He watched the bob of Steve’s Adam’s apple as he swallowed, the pulse of Steve’s jaw as he grit his teeth, and then the barest flick of Steve’s tongue between his lips as he nodded into the vice of Tony’s hand.
Steve had never been very good at knowing what Tony needed, but Steve was the first since Pepper to anticipate what Tony wanted, usually because it was what Steve wanted, too. For a while, they had finished each other’s sentences, they had fallen into each other’s arms, they had quietly forgiven each other no matter how often Tony considered that maybe he shouldn’t. Because unlike Pepper, Steve was also willing to give Tony want he wanted even if it was ultimately to their personal detriment, and not just when they were both willing to die for millions of strangers – but also now, angry and wounded and feral, Tony wanted to hurt Steve and Steve clearly wanted Tony to hurt him, and when it was all said and done Steve would probably disappear again only to reappear when it suited him, but he was on his knees in front of Tony now and by God, by God, Tony was going to get what he was owed.
“You’re going to go downstairs, to your old room,” Tony said. “You’re going to clean yourself. You’re going to make your old bed with the bedsheets in the closet. And then you’re going to wait for me.”
Steve opened his mouth, inhaled lightly to respond. Tony seized the moment to slide his thumb between Steve’s lips and press the pad to Steve’s tongue.
“Do you understand?”
Tony half-hoped Steve would try to move his head, even with one of Tony’s hands in his hair and the other in his mouth, but Steve stayed still, his breath puffing hot against Tony’s palm as he moaned a garbled attempt at a “yes.”
Tony meant to speak sharply, but his voice betrayed him by emerging as a cracked whisper.
Three hours later, Tony was still in the workshop. Steve hadn’t come or sent for Tony, and Tony hadn’t asked JARVIS if Steve was still there. He was starting to come back into himself, though, and while he would have usually resented having to (proverbially) come back to Earth, he now felt less dangerously volatile.
Steve still wasn’t off the hook, though.
Tony took another hour to shower, dress, and collect a bag of supplies before he spoke for the first time since he had walked away from Steve at the elevator.
Tony inhaled slowly through his nose. Held. Released.
“Is he still here?”
Tony boarded the elevator without alerting Steve or checking the cameras. When the doors opened on Steve’s old floor – long since vacated, with most of Steve’s personal belongings locked away at the Avengers Facility upstate – the first thing Tony noticed was the smell of bleach. He followed it to the bedroom, where Steve was sitting, naked, on the side of the bed, one leg curled under him and the other hanging over the side of the mattress, hands folded modestly in his lap.
Tony paused in the doorway. Steve immediately turned to look at him.
“You cleaned the bathroom?” Tony said.
Steve dropped his gaze and nodded.
“Wasn’t sure when you’d be here,” Steve said. He seemed to be aiming for matter-of-fact, but the depth and coarseness of his voice revealed his uncertainty.
Tony tried to ignore the sharp twist behind his heart.
“But you stayed.”
Steve looked up at Tony again but said nothing. Instead, he looked Tony over, taking in the athletic shirt and pants Tony usually wore under in anticipation of armoring up. When their gazes met again, Tony crossed the room to stand in front of Steve, who in turn planted both feet on the floor and faced Tony straight-on.
“You shy now?” Tony asked, nodding to Steve’s hands.
Steve shook his head.
Steve paused, looked away from Tony again, then quickly looked back.
“What’s about to happen?” Steve asked.
Tony cocked his head.
“Don’t you trust me?” he said, far more candidly than he’d imagined he would when he’d rehearsed this in his head over the past several months. More often than not, he’d envisioned himself sneering, followed by Steve scowling and raising his hackles. Sometimes they’d argued; sometimes Steve had simply left. Very rarely, Tony had let himself imagine what could happen if Steve stayed.
Steve did stay, though, and more – he nodded. Tony’s lips parted in surprise. He hadn’t imagined Steve answering in the affirmative.
“I do,” Steve said. A pause, and then, “Do you trust me?”
Tony snatched Steve’s chin in his hand. Steve’s hands stayed in his lap.
“No,” Tony said, and now he could feel the fire rekindling, the inferno that had built him up and torn him down and built him up again and again – the fantasy of self-preservation, the compulsion to self-destruct, all of the imagined justices he knew he didn’t really deserve crumbling to ash from the heat of all the culpability he knew was only his to carry – a flame he’d only known how to extinguish with booze and bodies before he’d built his first suit of armor.
“But I’ve never been very good at knowing what’s good for me,” Tony added. “Now get on your knees and face the headboard.”
Tony released Steve’s chin with a sharp twist of his wrist. Without a word, Steve did as he was told. Tony mounted the bed behind Steve, dropped the bag beside him, and settled onto his haunches.
“On your elbows.”
Steve lowered himself to his hands, then his elbows. As his knees began to fold as well, Tony slapped Steve’s thigh as hard he as could, drawing another surprised hiss from Steve.
“Ass in the air.”
Steve straightened out until his knees were perfect right angles, so Tony could see Steve’s balls already drawing tight, his cock hanging heavy beneath him.
“You will not come until I tell you to. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Steve said, his voice muffled by the pillows around his head.
“You will tell me if you’re getting close. Do you understand?”
“If you come before I tell you to, I’m going to punish you. Do you understand?”
Tony swallowed. So far, Steve hadn’t hesitated once.
“You remember our safe word?” Tony asked quietly.
Steve’s shoulders hitched as he inhaled.
Tony hovered his hands over Steve’s hips, down Steve’s back, up over Steve’s ribs. As badly as he wanted to feel the heat coursing just under Steve’s skin, he had to wait. He had to make Steve earn it. He could, at least, hold out for that.
Tony drew his hands away from Steve to retrieve a pair of gloves and a bottle of lube from the bag. He noticed Steve raise his head at the sound of the nitrile snapping around Tony’s wrist, but Steve slowly lowered his head back to the pillow when Tony snapped the lubricant tube open.
“Got something to say, Rogers?”
Steve shook his head against the pillow.
“If you’re good,” Tony said, as he poured lube into his hand, “I’ll think about taking the glove off.”
Steve released a quiet, shuddering sigh.
“Will you touch me?” he asked.
Tony bared Steve’s hole and slowly started to work his index finger into Steve before answering.
“I’ll think about it,” he repeated.
Steve’s breath began to pick up as Tony worked in a second finger, then a third. He wasn’t aiming for Steve’s prostate yet – was barely doing more than opening him up – and he was satisfied to see Steve’s hands curled into fists among the pillows. He kept at it until Steve’s toes began to curl and uncurl beside him, and then he twisted his hand, drew all his fingers together, and finally pushed in toward Steve’s prostate. Steve released a strained grunt as his back bowed, caught somewhere between rocking away from Tony and staying put as he’d been instructed.
(Talking Italian, they’d used to call this. Steve’s stupid euphemism, and Tony had loved it. Steve barely knew enough Italian to order food at a restaurant and converse with a baby, but Tony would speak to Steve anyway – “Rilassati, tesoro. Respira. Sono qui. Sono con te." – well after Steve’s body would let him in, and Tony would have one hand on Steve’s cock and the other in Steve’s ass up to his wrist and even when Steve started begging, or moaning, or screaming, still Tony would whisper to him, “Io ti amo, mio caro. Ti amo,” until he came.)
Tony was silent as he rocked his hand at the wrist, slowly, until Steve started pressing back onto his hand. He could hear Steve gulping for air, stifling himself, and he lashed out with his free hand to slap Steve’s ass.
Steve barely grunted.
“You’re quiet,” Tony said. His wrist was already starting to hurt, but he pushed in further, started rocking harder, until Steve finally lifted his head.
“So are you,” Steve gasped.
Tony slapped him again, on exactly the same spot, and this time Steve cried out.
“Voglio sentirti,” Tony said. Steve shook his head.
“I don’t – ”
Tony slapped him again. Steve released a huffed “ah,” but nothing more.
Tony slapped him again, pushed further still into Steve, and this time Steve’s voice left him in a strangled moan.
Tony slapped him again. Steve dropped his head and swore.
“Fuck, okay, Tony, okay – ”
“‘Okay,’ what, Steve?”
Tony slapped him again.
“FUCK, okay, I get it, I won’t be quiet!”
Tony began to pull his hand free of Steve, and Steve immediately pushed his hips back toward Tony.
“No! No, Tony, please, please don’t stop. I’ll do what you want. Please don’t stop – ”
“Oh,” Tony breathed, twisting his hand again as his knuckles met Steve’s rim, “don’t worry. This is far from over.”
And now Steve was panting heavily, and his thighs were beginning to quake. Tony removed the used glove and dropped it on the floor, then raised his hand and snapped. A compartment opened in the wall to his right, and one of the prehensile gauntlets rocketed to him, folded around his open hand.
(He’d installed it when he’d returned from Siberia. There wasn’t a room anywhere in the Tower that didn’t house at least a partial armor.)
“Oh, God,” Steve moaned.
“Who, me?” Tony said. Steve huffed a dry laugh.
“Yeah,” Steve said. “You.”
“Then pray to me.”
Tony pressed his thumb to Steve’s rim. Steve instinctively tensed and shifted forward, away from the chilling metal, but he was quick to come back, and Tony let Steve push himself onto his thumb.
“I don’t hear any talking,” Tony said, lifting his free hand again.
“Please,” Steve growled between haggard breaths. “Tony. Please.”
Tony twisted his thumb and watched the muscles of Steve’s back ripple from that small, simple movement.
Tony pulled his thumb free.
“N-no – ”
Steve rocked back again. Tony braced his hands – one still donning the nitrile glove, the other the gauntlet – against Steve’s ass and squeezed, kneaded, returned his armored thumb to Steve’s hole and circled the rim, pushed Steve forward until his face was buried in the pillows again, raised himself onto his knees and kept pushing, let Steve’s ass swallow his thumb again and started to fuck him with it, just barely enough for Steve to even register that Tony was inside him but still Steve pushed back, pushed back, pushed back, rocked his hips and curled his fists, and oh, that’s what Steve’s biceps must have looked like when he’d been wailing on Tony, but now he was letting Tony smother him in the same bed they’d used to fuck in.
Tony released Steve, who gasped for air as he lifted his face from the bed, and found the lube again. Without preamble, he pressed two slicked fingers into Steve.
“Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck….” Steve began to chant in time to Tony’s fingers, growing louder and harsher and less coherent as Tony picked up speed. With the gauntlet, Tony could go on for hours if he wanted.
He made it to twenty-three minutes before Steve reached behind him, grasping blindly for Tony.
“I’m close, I’m close, I’m so close, Tony, Tony – ”
Tony pulled his hand free from Steve again and sat back. Steve returned his hand to the bed, and for a quavering moment, Tony simply watched Steve’s ass clench against emptiness, watched his fingers dig into the bedding, watched his shoulders draw together and his head bow low.
“Good boy,” Tony said. “Now turn over, on your back.”
Steve followed Tony’s order, and damn if Tony wasn’t momentarily mesmerized by the heaving of Steve’s chest and the flush of his face. He did, however, have the wherewithal to wipe the gauntlet against the bedspread before reaching back into the bag beside him and withdrawing a cock ring.
“No, come on, Tony, please, I can’t – ”
“Been that long?” Tony asked, then immediately regretted it. He didn’t want to hear about Steve and Wilson, or worse, Steve and Barnes –
“Almost a year, right?” Steve said, but he stayed put as Tony stretched the ring around Steve’s cock. Only once it was in place did Tony look up at Steve.
“No one else?” Tony asked quietly.
Steve swallowed thickly, shook his head, still breathing through his mouth even though Tony was no longer touching him. But he didn’t speak, and so Tony waited, until Steve finally closed his eyes and dropped his head back against the pillows.
“I thought about it,” he admitted in a croak.
“With who?” Tony said around the bile burning the back of his throat.
Tony leaned over Steve, clamped his gauntleted hand around Steve’s jaw. Steve’s eyes flew open to meet Tony’s.
Steve’s eyes danced between Tony’s, as though he was waiting for Tony to laugh it off. Instead, Tony tightened his grip until Steve wrapped a hand around Tony’s wrist.
“Only Sam,” Steve said, gaze still locked with Tony’s. “Tony. I swear.”
Tony released Steve, then straddled Steve’s hips. Steve’s eyebrows knitted together in confusion, even as his eyes fluttered shut at the friction of Tony’s ass against his cock.
“You’re still dressed.”
Tony barked a laugh.
“You,” Tony said, “are a long, long way from getting to fuck me.”
Then Tony took Steve’s wrists in his hands and planted them next to Steve’s head.
“You aren’t even ready to touch me yet,” he added. Steve swallowed and nodded.
Tony straightened up, shifted his hips up Steve’s stomach, slicked up his gloved hand, and reached behind him for Steve’s cock, his fingers in a tight o as he slid his hand over the head. He paused there, circled his wrist and tightened his hold, and Steve almost catapulted Tony off him as he jerked his hips up toward Tony’s hand.
“Fuuuck, no, Tony, I can’t…”
“We’ve barely started,” Tony said, though he knew almost an hour and a half had already passed. Steve never had been terribly patient when it came to getting edged, and as far as edging Tony – well. He’d never really had it in him not to give in almost as soon as Tony had started to beg.
Back in the old days.
Between gasps and groans, Steve seemed to be trying to form words. The familiarity of it was a blow to Tony’s resolve, but when Steve finally strung his words together, Tony was newly alight.
“I missed you.”
Tony’s gauntleted hand, which he’d planted in the middle of Steve’s chest, swiftly closed around Steve’s throat, though not enough to constrict his air.
“The hell did you just say?” Tony hissed.
Steve’s hands opened and closed, but he didn’t lift them from either side of his head.
“I missed you,” he said again, and Tony wasn’t sure if Steve sounded like he was choking on the words because of the hand around his throat or because they were true.
Or. Maybe because they weren’t.
Tony tightened his hold. Steve drew in a deep breath and extended his arms to wrap his hands around the bottom of the headboard.
“I missed you,” Steve croaked, “every minute of every day.”
Had Tony ever seen a blue as clear as Steve’s eyes? He looked away as he jacked Steve off faster, harder, until Steve was struggling to speak.
“And – ahh, hah – I’m – I’m sorry – ngggh, ha, fuck – I’m sorry – FUCK – agh, Tony, I’m so close! – I’m so close I’m so closeI’msoclose – ”
Tony tightened his hold on Steve’s throat until Steve fell silent, his lips still forming words Tony had thought he was ready to hear, and still Steve kept his hands on the headboard, and still Steve bucked up into Tony’s hold even as Tony closed his hand tight around the base of Steve’s cock. And Steve could have just as well had his hand around Tony’s throat for how harshly it burned and constricted, but Steve hadn’t touched him, just as Tony had asked, and Steve had told Tony when he was close, just as Tony had asked, and it shouldn’t have been anywhere near enough but now the piercing fire in Tony’s chest was mellowing, spreading into a different, fuller heat in his groin, and fuck it, fuck it –
Tony abruptly crawled off Steve, off the bed, and pointed to the dresser.
“Get your ass up there,” he panted and Steve, coughing, quickly obliged, though Tony was suddenly unable to watch him. Gaze toward the floor, Tony pulled his pants and boxers down in a single movement, kicked them behind him, shook off the gauntlet, peeled off the glove, and then pulled his harness and dildo from the bag on the bed. Only once he was strapped in and had the bottle of lube in his hand did he force himself to look at Steve.
A red handprint ringed Steve’s neck.
Tony thought he heard Steve sob as he slicked himself up. He dropped the bottle on the floor with everything else and crashed into Steve, grabbed Steve’s knees and hoisted them up onto his shoulders, forced Steve to curl into himself and Steve took it. He pushed himself into Steve in one sharp thrust and Steve took it, wrapped a now-naked hand around Steve’s throat and Steve took it, unleashed ten months of regret and guilt and longing and betrayal onto Steve and Steve took it, he took it and took it and when Tony opened his eyes – when had he closed his eyes? – he realized it was he, not Steve, who was sobbing.
“I’m sorry,” Steve said again. Tony lowered his hand from Steve’s throat to his shoulder, bowed his head until his forehead met Steve’s clavicle, the pounding of the dresser into the wall behind punctuating Steve’s continued, breathless mantra as Tony moaned and sighed and sobbed.
“I’m sorry I left, I’m sorry – I’m sorry I lied, I’m sorry I – I played right into his trap, I’m sorry I didn’t protect you, I’m sorry – ”
“Shut up!” Tony screamed into Steve’s chest. “Shut up.”
Tony wrapped a hand around Steve’s cock, breathed in every scent that he had missed so much over the past ten months – Steve’s soap, Steve’s sweat, Steve’s musk – and pumped his hand in time with his hips as best he could. He started counting every pass of his palm over the head of Steve’s cock, focused in on the puff of Steve’s breath against the back of his head, and then, as his own orgasm began to coil and build, he lifted his head and slammed his mouth against Steve’s. It was a messy, painful, desperate kiss, with Tony’s lips colliding with Steve’s teeth before Steve understood what was happening, but then they were chasing the synchronicity they’d come to depend on from each other until Tony was sure Steve was swallowing the air straight out of his lungs, but he didn’t care, he’d give it all to Steve over and over again as long as he eventually came back –
“Tony,” Steve said, his voice tight, “I’m right there, I – ”
“Come for me,” Tony said, right before diving back for Steve’s mouth, and then Steve was screaming but still Tony kissed him until Steve threw his head back, baring his throat, so Tony kissed him there instead, and along his jaw and across his cheekbone and everywhere else he could reach while Steve wrapped his arms around Tony’s shoulders and came. Tony kissed the corner of Steve’s eye and tasted salt, pulled away and opened his eyes to find Steve silently crying.
“Do you want me to stop?” Tony said, barely a whisper, as he continued to mercilessly fuck Steve.
Steve shook his head, even as he opened his eyes and sent more tears falling. His eyelashes were darker now, clumping together, and still his eyes were the clearest and truest Tony had ever seen them.
“Good,” Tony said. He leaned into Steve again, and Steve wrapped his arms tight around Tony’s shoulders, one hand cradling the back of Tony’s head, and, between shaking breaths and ragged moans, he talked to Tony.
“I missed you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I…”
Steve choked. Tony inhaled sharply through his teeth.
Steve’s voice shattered as he spoke.
“I love you, Tony.”
Tony slammed one fist into the wall behind Steve and came.